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15 Jan, 2024 16:02

Meeting between Putin and North Korean FM ‘not ruled out’ – Kremlin

Pyongyang’s top diplomat, Choe Son-hui, is scheduled to have talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday
Meeting between Putin and North Korean FM ‘not ruled out’ – Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin could meet with North Korea’s top diplomat, Choe Son-hui, this week, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Monday. Choe arrived in Moscow earlier the same day and is scheduled to hold talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday.

Relations between the two neighbors have strengthened recently. In July 2023, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu traveled to Pyongyang on the anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Lavrov visited North Korea in October of the same year.

Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held a personal meeting in September 2023. Kim was received at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East region as part of an official visit, which also included a tour of aviation plants.

The US and South Korea claimed at the time that Moscow and Pyongyang were engaged in military cooperation and that North Korea was providing ammunition to Russia, which Moscow denied.

“North Korea is our… closest neighbor, our partner,” Peskov told journalists on Monday, adding that Russia is “developing and intends to further develop partnership” with the nation “in all fields.” He also said the two neighbors would “continue dialogue at all levels.” 

Regarding a potential meeting between Putin and Choe, the Kremlin spokesman said it was “not ruled out.” He added that it could take place after the North Korean diplomat’s talks with Lavrov.

The Russian leader could also make an official visit to Pyongyang “in the foreseeable future,” Peskov said, adding that Putin has an invitation from Kim.

Moscow expects the talks on Tuesday between Choe and Lavrov to be “good, intense, substantiative, fruitful,” according to Peskov. However, he did not reveal the topics on the agenda. Choe is expected to stay in Moscow until Wednesday, according to Russian media.

The visit has sparked some concern in Seoul. The South Korean Unification Ministry warned against any military cooperation between Russia and the North, calling it “illegal.” Moscow and Pyongyang “should be clearly aware that [the world] is keeping close tabs on Choe’s visit to Russia,” the ministry’s spokesman, Koo Byoung-sam, told journalists on Monday.

Earlier, the US claimed that Russia fired North Korean missiles to attack Ukrainian targets, calling it a “significant and concerning escalation.” Moscow ridiculed the allegations after Kiev confirmed that it had found no evidence to support Washington’s statements.

Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, called the US’ claims “deliberate false information.” 

Ahead of Choe’s visit, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow has the right to “to do whatever we consider necessary” regardless of the West’s claims that it has “no right to communicate with North Korea.”